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Commissioner Lenarčič highlights investment in disaster prevention to face future crises

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While attending the 2021 European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction, European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, emphasised the centrality of investment in prevention and preparedness for better confronting a future risk landscape of more frequent and extreme disasters.

The EU remains committed to meeting its targets under the Sendai Framework and continues to support its Member States in preventing and preparing for disasters. Among others, the imminent launch of the Knowledge Network under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism will contribute to that endeavour.

During the Forum, Commissioner Lenarčič said: ‘The COVID-19 pandemic is the worst health crisis seen in the EU’s history. Sadly, it is not the only extreme circumstance that we have witnessed in recent years. Climate crisis is already here, and science is telling us we can anticipate more frequent and more intense disasters. This requires all of us to act together and prepare better for the future. As co-organiser of the European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction, the European Commission wishes to contribute to greener resilience of communities in Europe and beyond by supporting the enhancement of disaster prevention, informed by the best scientific practices and knowledge.’

At this year’s 2021 European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction, 22 government leaders from across Europe have come together at this event to jointly pledge for making disaster prevention and actions to strengthen resilience to disasters a priority.

It takes place timely after COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow and links closely to the anticipated effects of climate change, including more extreme disasters, greater human tragedies and material damage.

The Forum is part of a regional series and co-organised by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the European Commission, the Council of Europe and the Portuguese National Authority for Civil Protection.

Background

In recent years, the EU has seen a wide range of crises that caused devastation to human life, property, the environment and cultural heritage. Looking ahead, the EU expects more extreme events due to climate change.

Via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, the EU enables its Member States to exchange information regularly on disaster risks, runs exercises together and pools rescue teams and equipment that are rapidly mobilised when a disaster overwhelms any other country in the world.

For 2021, the EU also allocated €75 million in humanitarian aid to preparedness actions worldwide. Via its Science and Knowledge Service and the Copernicus programme, the Commission provides science, knowledge and information to support Member States with early warning, response and risk assessment.

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Forest Fires: Commissioner Lenarčič in Greece for EU civil protection workshop

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Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, is today joining former Commissioner and current Minister for the Climate Crisis and Civil Protection of Greece, Christos Stylianides, for the opening session of the ‘European Civil Protection Mechanism Lessons Learned’ workshop on Forest Fires.

The 2-day event is taking place in Athens and will cover prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.

“Today, Europe faces many significant disaster threats and cooperation is key to address them. By taking a joint-approach to disaster risk management, all European countries can be prepared for future possible hazards. Our discussions will be an important step to address emerging forest fire risks. It will help with our forward planning for future wildfire threats, both for the 2022 forest fire season and for those to come”, said Commissioner Lenarčič.

The 2021 forest fire season saw one of the largest EU Civil Protection Mechanism deployment in Europe in the last 10 years, as well as one of the largest ever number of simultaneous activations for forest fires.

In a world already affected by climate change, the 2021 summer offers a glimpse into what future summers might be like.

This timely lessons learned event, organised jointly with Greek Civil Protection Authorities, will takes stock of the 2021 forest fire season and feed into preparations of the forest fire season of 2022.

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Belarus: EU allocates €700,000 in humanitarian assistance for vulnerable people stranded at the border

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Responding immediately to an appeal, the European Commission has allocated €200,000 in humanitarian funding to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The funding is part of the EU’s overall contribution to the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund, managed by the IFRC.

This immediate EU funding will support the IFRC and its national society, the Belarus Red Cross, to deliver much needed relief assistance, including food, hygiene kits, blankets, and first aid kits.

The EU has mobilised an additional €500,000 in humanitarian funding and is currently in contact with its humanitarian partner organisations for the implementation of the funds.

Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said: “The EU is supporting its humanitarian partners to help alleviate the suffering of people stranded at the border and in other parts of Belarus. I am calling for continuous access of humanitarian organisations from both sides to reach this large group of refugees and migrants to provide them with urgent assistance.”

The European Commission stands ready to provide additional humanitarian funding in response to clearly established humanitarian needs, should the access for humanitarian partner organisations in Belarus further improve.

All EU humanitarian aid is based on international humanitarian principles. The EU provides needs-based humanitarian assistance to the people hit by human-induced disasters and natural hazards with particular attention to the most vulnerable victims.

Aid is channelled impartially to the affected populations, regardless of their race, ethnic group, religion, gender, age, nationality or political affiliation.

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South Sudan: EU provides €2 million in emergency humanitarian funding for victims of floods

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The European Commission has allocated emergency humanitarian funding of €2 million for those affected by recent unprecedented floods in South Sudan.

To date, an estimated 40 people have died and over 750,000 people are affected. Many people had to flee their homes due to the floods in 31 of the 78 counties of the country, including most famine- affected areas.

Projections indicate that over 1 million people may be affected by those floods by the end of the year.

Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said: “Severe flooding in several areas of South Sudan has exacerbated an already fragile humanitarian situation. Prior to the flooding, around 70% of South Sudan’s population was already in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Thousands of people live in famine-like conditions, and undernutrition is at critical levels. The emergency funding will be used to respond to the immediate needs of those affected. The floods in South Sudan are a timely reminder for urgent action on climate change, in view also of the COP26 conference: the effects of climate change are real, and they are here – and vulnerable populations suffer the repercussions.”

The emergency humanitarian funding will be channelled through the EU’s humanitarian partner, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and will be used to provide vulnerable populations with life-saving water and sanitation, shelter and other essential non-food items.

Background

On 21 October 2021, the UN called on the international community to urgently assist South Sudanese affected by floods, stating that more than 750,000 people have been affected by the worst floods to hit the country in decades.

Heavy rains and flash floods have led to loss of life and the destruction of livestock, farmlands and homes, forcing flood-affected people to move to higher grounds.

To date, not all affected have yet received some form of humanitarian assistance in the aftermath of the flooding. Authorities in northern Unity State have warned about a looming environmental disaster in view of the oilfields that are under water.

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Austria forest fire: EU deploys immediate assistance

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Austria activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) on 29 October 2021, requesting assistance to fight the forest fire that had broken out in the region of Hirschwang in Lower Austria. The EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre mobilised 2 Canadair CL-415 fire-fighting planes, based in Italy. The planes, part of the EU’s rescEU transition fleet, are already deployed in Austria.

In addition, Germany and Slovakia have offered firefighting helicopters via the UCPM. Both offers have been accepted and deployment is pending. The Copernicus Service has also been activated in support of the fire-fighting operations in Austria. The mapping products are available here.

Welcoming the rapid deployment of rescEU assets, European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič said: “With its prompt response to the Austrian request for assistance, the EU demonstrates again its full solidarity in facing the destructive forest fires. Support is on its way. I am grateful to the Member States that have already mobilised or have offered to mobilise fire-fighting assets. Our thoughts are with those affected, and with the fire fighters and other first responders. We stand ready to provide further assistance.”

Background

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism strengthens cooperation between and among Member States and Participating States in the field of civil protection, with a view to improving prevention, preparedness and response to disasters. Through the Mechanism, the European Commission plays a key role in coordinating the response to disasters in Europe and beyond.

When the scale of an emergency overwhelms the response capabilities of a country, it can request assistance via the Mechanism. Once activated, the Mechanism coordinates assistance made available by its Participating States through spontaneous offers.

In addition, the EU has created the European Civil Protection Pool to have a critical number of readily available civil protection capacities allowing for a stronger and coherent collective response.

Should the emergency require additional, life-saving assistance, the rescEU reserve can be activated, as a last resort.

To date, all EU Member States participate in the Mechanism, as well as Iceland, Norway, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey. Since its inception in 2001, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has responded to over 500 requests for assistance inside and outside the EU.

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Coronavirus: EU medical teams deployed to Romania

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Over the past 3 weeks, 9 countries have offered assistance to Romania via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. A medical team from Denmark and another from Poland have arrived in Bucharest this week to help Romanian doctors treat the increasing number of COVID-19 patients.

Also this week, 350 oxygen concentrators from the rescEU stockpile hosted by the Netherlands were delivered to Romania, in addition to the 200 rescEU oxygen concentrators delivered earlier this month.

In the last days, via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism:

  • Serbia has delivered 170 oxygen concentrators and 6,365 doses of monoclonal antibodies
  • Germany offered 12,750 units of monoclonal antibodies and Slovakia offered 1,000 doses of monoclonal antibodies, 500,000 antigen tests and other medical devices
  • Poland made a second offer of 150 oxygen concentrators, 55 cardiac monitors, 50 respirators, and other material.

Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said: “The European Civil Protection Mechanism continues to prove its worth in the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. I would like to thank Serbia for their first offer of assistance via the Mechanism and to Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia for their continuous assistance to Romania. The EU remains committed to channel all the necessary help to Romania and other countries in need.” 

Following Romania’s request for assistance through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, 1,075 packages of different intensive care medicines have been offered by Austria and an additional 89,030 vials of medicines, 18 ventilators, medical equipment and accessories have been offered by France.

In addition to 50 oxygen concentrators from Poland, 5,200 vials of monoclonal antibodies from Italy, 15 ventilators and 8 oxygen concentrators delivered from Denmark to Romania.

A medical team from Moldova that arrived in Romania 2 weeks ago continues to provide specialised medical assistance. Romanian COVID-19 patients have been transported to Hungary, Poland and Austria for treatment.

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Commissioner Lenarčič in Bangladesh: EU provides €12 million for displaced Rohingyas in Bangladesh and Myanmar

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Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, is concluding today a 3-day visit to Bangladesh to see the situation on the ground in the context of the worsening humanitarian crisis affecting Rohingya people. In the margins of his visit, he announced an additional €12 million in humanitarian aid funding for the Rohingya in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Commissioner Lenarčič said: “The EU is providing additional humanitarian aid for the affected Rohingya in Bangladesh as well as in Myanmar, where the root causes of this crisis lie. This new funding reaffirms the European Union stands by Bangladesh and its people which hosts nearly a million Rohingya, who had to flee their homes to save their lives. At the same time, I wish to commend our partners, who are supporting the refugees daily. We closely monitor the humanitarian situation in the region and remain committed to providing life-saving assistance, including through innovative ways to elevate displaced Rogingya’s standard of living, as well as long-term support to Rohingya and host communities in Bangladesh and Myanmar”.

While in Cox’s Bazar, Commissioner Lenarčič visited the world’s largest refugee settlement, the Kutupalong camp, meeting with the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner and representatives of the United Nations, humanitarian and civil society organisations.

Upon arrival to Dhaka, the Commissioner met with Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr A. K. Abdul Momen, Bangladeshi Minister of Disaster Management and Relief, Dr Md. Enamur Rahman, and the Bangladeshi Minister of Water Resources, Mr Zahid Faruk.

The massive influx of Rohingya populations into Bangladesh is the largest refugee movement in the region in decades and the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world since the Syrian emergency.

Background

Bangladesh continues to be a safe haven for over 884,000 Rohingya refugees. They fled brutal repression and wide-ranging discrimination in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and currently live in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district.

Being the world’s largest stateless population, most of them without formal refugee status, the Rohingya cannot pursue education or formal employment. They remain vulnerable to exploitation and serious protection risks. Living in refugee camps, they depend entirely on humanitarian aid.

In 2021, the European Union has contributed €8.15 million in humanitarian aid and disaster preparedness funding to Bangladesh. Since 2017, the EU has allocated over €283 million for the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh, Myanmar and the region.  

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Afghanistan: New EU Humanitarian Air Bridge delivers life-saving medical aid

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Another EU Humanitarian Air Bridge flight has delivered over 28 tonnes of life-saving medical cargo to Kabul to address the dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.

The EU-funded air bridge flight enables the World Health Organization, as well as humanitarian organisations such as ‘Emergency’ and ‘Première Urgence Internationale’ to deliver critical health items to those in need.

On the occasion, Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management, said: ”This is the third EU Humanitarian Air Bridge flight since the fall of Kabul in August this year. This EU-funded flight represents an important lifeline to Afghans in urgent need of medical care. However, the overall humanitarian situation is rapidly worsening. In this view and the approaching winter, I urge the entire international community to step up and provide for life-saving aid to millions of Afghans whose lives depend on it.

The life-saving cargo consists of medical equipment to conduct surgeries and medical drugs.

On top of this third EU-funded flight to Kabul this week, further flights are scheduled for the coming weeks as an expression of EU solidarity with the people of Afghanistan. 

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EU Civil Protection celebrates 20th anniversary delivering assistance to people

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The European Union is marking the 20th anniversary of its EU Civil Protection Mechanism tomorrow which has been activated more than 500 times to coordinate assistance people affected by natural hazards and other crises in Europe and worldwide. This has included millions of supplies of medical material during the COVID-19 pandemic, to dispatching emergency items following earthquakes and floods.

On this occasion, Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management said: “The EU Civil Protection Mechanism ensures swift and well-coordinated emergency assistance whenever a disaster hits the EU or beyond. It is a concrete example of EU solidarity in action. I am proud to look back at this success story of 20 years of EU solidarity operations. Over time, with its cornerstone position in the European disaster management system, it has not only enabled us to respond faster and to more disasters simultaneously. With rescEU we have also managed to fundamentally strengthen the level of disaster preparedness of our continent facing ever more intense natural hazards and new and more complex risks.”.

Looking back at 20 years of EU-coordinated emergency operations

Since its inception in 2001, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has responded to over 500 requests for assistance inside and outside the EU:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina floods in 2014: The largest EU response operation saw the deployment of 30 response units.
  • Mozambique tropical cyclone Idai in 2019: The largest EU response operation with the deployment of four emergency medical teams in one single operation.
  • The forest fire season in the Mediterranean in 2021: The largest EU response operation to forest fires including the dispatch of firefighting airplanes, helicopters, drones and firefighting teams on the ground.
  • The largest repatriation of EU citizens for COVID-19 in 2020: The EU funded more than 400 repatriation flights to bring home more than 100,000 Europeans and their family members from 85 different countries worldwide.
  • The years with greatest number of activations was 2020: The EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated for 102 times in 2020 alone.

Background

When the scale of an emergency overwhelms the response capabilities of a country, it can request assistance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Once activated, the EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre coordinates and finances assistance made available by EU Member States and 6 additional Participating States (Iceland, Norway, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Turkey) through spontaneous offers.

In addition, the EU has created the European Civil Protection Pool to have a critical number of readily available civil protection capacities allowing for a stronger and coherent collective response.

Should the emergency require additional, life-saving assistance, the rescEU reserve steps in to provide additional capacities to confront disasters in Europe. The EU’s Copernicus emergency satellite mapping service complements operations with detailed information from space.

Coinciding with this anniversary, a new legislation was passed earlier this year to reinforce EU Civil Protection, giving the EU the needed tools to better meet future challenges such as large-scale emergencies or disasters that affect several countries at the same time.

EU civil protection was created 20 years ago on 23 October 2001 with the adoption of Council Decision 2001/792/EC establishing a Community mechanism to facilitate reinforced cooperation in civil protection assistance interventions.

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EU continues to support Romania tackle the increase of COVID-19 cases

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Via the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, 1,075 packages of different intensive care medicines have been offered by Austria and an additional 89,030 vials of medicines, 18 ventilators, medical equipment and accessories have been offered by France to answer Romania’s request for assistance to treat the high number of COVID-19 patients in the country.

This comes in addition to:

  • the 200 oxygen concentrators from the rescEU strategic medical stockpile hosted by the Netherlands
  • 50 oxygen concentrators from Poland
  • 5,200 vials of monoclonal antibodies from Italy
  • 15 ventilators and 8 oxygen concentrators delivered from Denmark to Romania last week via the Mechanism. 

Earlier this week, a medical team from Moldova has arrived in Romania to provide specialised medical assistance, while Romanian COVID-19 patients and doctors are being transported to Hungary for treatment. Romania has also requested EU financial support for this operation via the Emergency Support Instrument (ESI).

Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič, said: “I am pleased to see that the outpour of solidarity from Member States has not slowed down as Romania continues to struggle with the surge of COVID-19 cases in the country. I would like to thank Austria, France, Hungary and Moldova  for their assistance to Romania. The pandemic is still a harsh reality and EU solidarity is once again showing the importance of working together to fight it.” 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism has coordinated and co-financed the delivery of over 190 million items of personal protective and medical equipment, reinforced hospitals with additional medical staff and delivered vaccines and other essential equipment to more than 55 countries.

In addition, the EU created a strategic rescEU medical reserve and distribution mechanism under the umbrella of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The reserve enables the swift delivery of medical equipment hosted by Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden and The Netherlands.